My Other Car is a Bicycle
by Kathryn Krawczyk
Bicycling continues to gain momentum in Buffalo
They say you never forget how to ride a bicycle. So this summer, dust off that old bike and get out on the road again.
After all, there’s never been a better time to do it. Thanks to GObike Buffalo’s work, Buffalo is on track to becoming a safer and more enjoyable place to cycle. Buffalo is currently ranked as a bronze level bike-friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists, but the organization hopes to get to the level of platinum cities like Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado.
To do that, GObike Buffalo has established a city-wide bicycle master plan, which had its last meeting for public comment last week.
“The mayor’s been very very supportive,” said Justin Booth, executive director of GObike Buffalo. “And now, we’re working with the city to move that plan from concept to implementation.”
The master plan aims to increase bike lanes and safety for cyclists, driver awareness, increase enforcement of rules, as well as improve connectivity of existing bike paths and even revitalize Buffalo itself.
Of course, the master plan has to be cost effective. Booth said since many Buffalo streets were built to hold more cars than they needed to, the city can repurpose the excess space as bike lanes instead of using resources to build them. So when these streets are being repaved, it’s just a matter of painting lines in a way that will accommodate bicycles. But having a bike-friendly city isn’t just about adding bike lanes to city streets.
“It’s a pretty extensive process, not only looking at the infrastructure on the streets but educating drivers and cyclists, and also encouraging more people to bike more often,” Booth said.
To stress the benefits of cycling, GObike Buffalo has made community events and workshops a huge part of its mission. May was National Bike Month, and GObike packed it with activities like bike breakfasts, tours and the annual SkyRide on the Skyway, which took place on May 30.
Even though Bike Month just wrapped up, there’s still plenty of biking opportunities throughout the summer. Booth said GObike Buffalo is partnering with the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and will provide Toxic Bike Tours of historically polluted areas throughout Tonawanda and Buffalo’s West Side.
GObike Buffalo has also teamed up with the National Garden Festival for bike tours during Garden Walk Buffalo on July 25 and 26.
Another ongoing event is the Buffalo Slow Roll, which takes place every Monday evening at a different location around the city. Slow Roll, a big community bike ride for cyclists of all skill levels, meets at 6pm and rides at 6:30. Check out slowrollbuffalo.org to see where it’s meeting each week.
And suppose that old bicycle is in need of repairs, or could just be running a bit better. GObike Buffalo offers community workshops where the public can learn to repair and maintain bikes, as well as pick up a used bike they can repair themselves.
Even on a day without any bike events, Buffalo is still a great place to just go for a ride. Booth recommends biking down to Canalside and taking the new Queen City Bike Ferry over to the Outer Harbor ($1 fare). There, cyclists can explore bike paths by the water, the Times Beach Nature Preserve, and the new Buffalo Harbor State Park.
Another great option is a ride through Delaware Park or by the museums, check out the development on the Richardson-Olmstead Complex or pop over to Elmwood for some ice cream.
GObike Buffalo also encourages cycling with an added bonus: the Bicycle Benefits program. When cyclists enroll with Bicycle Benefits for $5 or become a GObike Buffalo member, they receive stickers to put on their helmets. This sticker unlocks discounts at shops, theatres and more all over the city—provided they wear helmets and bike to the location (see sidebar for participating businesses).
“It’s really nice to do all the things you’d normally do but to do it on a bike, because you get a chance to really engage in your surroundings,” said Booth.
What if you don’t want to bother with the expense and upkeep associated with owning a bike? That’s where Buffalo BikeShare comes in.
When Artvoice caught up with Buffalo BikeShare last year, it was just launching a pilot program in the city after finding success on the University at Buffalo campus. Buffalo BikeShare Director of Operations Anders Gunnersen said a year ago, it had around 25 to 30 bikes in the Elmwood Village and Allentown areas, as well as downtown. This summer, BikeShare will have 40 to 50 bikes in the same places throughout the city.
“We haven’t expanded our service area, but we’ve increased the density of the bikes so there’s more availability,” Gunnersen said.
So now, it’s easier for BikeShare users to find bikes when they need them. And it’s easy to become a BikeShare user as well. To sign up, choose from one of two payment plans: a $10 activation fee plus 5 cents per minute of bike use, or a $65 flat fee for 90 days of unlimited riding. Then, use either buffalobikeshare.org or the Social Bicycles app to find a bike hub and reserve a bike.
For now, Buffalo BikeShare only has hubs in a few spots throughout the city and the UB campus, but they’re looking to put more out there with the help of a sponsor.
“What we would do is look for a keynote sponsor who would essentially purchase a fleet of bikes, and it would have their logos on it,” said Gunnersen. “That would allow us to grow in key areas of Buffalo that could see a lot of benefit in having these bikes.”
Gunnersen said Buffalo BikeShare would like to put more bike hubs in high traffic areas, like near transit stops, to help out those who really need transportation.
However, Buffalo BikeShare is also great for those who want the fun of riding a bike without actually owning one.
“We have the ability to use these bikes in a lot of different ways,” Gunnersen said. Buffalo BikeShare is great not only for regular members, but for one-time rentals as well. With groups like Explore Buffalo, its bikes have even been used for tours and group rides, and Buffalo BikeShare is happy to negotiate group rates as needed.
Of course, if all this bike talk inspires you to become a bike owner yourself, you can always check out our Best of Buffalo list for the top bike shops the city has to offer.
Free or $6/month premium membership. Like a social network for cyclists and runners, Strava is the ultimate app for those with a competitive nature. You can track rides and compare times with a network of riders, including your friends and professionals, as well as set personal fitness goals. A premium membership comes with plenty of other features too. And now, it’s even available as an Apple Watch app.
Free or $1.99 for more features. For a simple way to track your rides (and other fitness activity), try MapMyRide. Just hit “start workout” and start pedaling—the app will do the rest. When you’re finished, you’ll be given a summary of your workout including distance, time, and calories burned. If you don’t know exactly where to ride, MapMyRide will also suggest pre-mapped routes for you to try—and it’ll even let you know where you can stop for water along your ride.
An alternative to MapMyRide, CycleMeter also tracks how long and how far you’ve ridden, as well as calories burned. But CycleMeter will also provide a few new options. Set a distance or a time you’re trying to ride for, or set up some interval training, and the app will let you know when you’re finished.
Free. There’s a chance Google maps is already on your phone, supplying you with driving directions and bus stations. But the app’s capabilities don’t stop there. Switch over to the biking feature, and you’ll see bike paths and lanes in your area highlighted in green. You can also simply type in an address and get bike directions to wherever you’d like to go.
Don’t have a bike of your own? With Buffalo BikeShare and the Social Bicycles app, that’s not a problem. Download the app and sign up for the paid plan of your choice. The app will then show you where to find the nearest bikes and hubs, so you can reserve a bike and get rolling.blog comments powered by Disqus
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